Ones to Watch: Akram Afif (Qatar)

Tehran Times - - SPORTS -

Kuala Lumpur: Af­ter a break­through sea­son in which he helped Al Sadd reach the 2018 AFC Cham­pi­ons League semi-fi­nals, Akram Afif is set to take on his first AFC Asian Cup next month.

De­spite be­ing just 22, Akram Afif al­ready has play­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in Bel­gium and Spain, the Qatari mid­fielder will look to ce­ment his sta­tus as one of Asia’s top tal­ents dur­ing Jan­uary’s AFC Asian Cup. Na­tion­al­ity: Qatar

Date of birth: 18/11/1996

Po­si­tion: Mid­field

Cur­rent club: Al Sadd (Qatar) Pre­vi­ous clubs: Eu­pen (Bel­gium), Vil­lar­real, Sport­ing Gi­jon (both Spain)

In­ter­na­tional back­ground

Afif was al­ready a star for Qatar at the youth level, tak­ing the na­tion’s U-19 team all the way to the 2014 AFC U-19 Cham­pi­onship fi­nal, where he scored one of his tour­na­ment to­tal of four goals to help them clinch the tro­phy against DPR Ko­rea.

His se­nior de­but came a year later when coach Daniel Car­reno called him up ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qual­i­fiers. A lone goal in the 15-0 thrash­ing of Bhutan was enough to kick­start his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer, as he would go onto score ten more in 35 ap­pear­ances, most re­cently in the 1-0 friendly win over Switzer­land.

Style of play

Afif pri­mar­ily op­er­ates in the whole be­hind the at­tack line, cre­at­ing scor­ing chances as well as carv­ing ones for him­self. He has also fre­quently been used on the left flank where he cuts in­side onto his right foot to at­tempt long range shots or de­liver in-swing­ing crosses.

Since join­ing Al Sadd, Afif has de­vel­oped a tele­pathic un­der­stand­ing with fel­low at­tack­ing mid­fielder Has­san Al Hay­dos, which sees the pair make up a core cre­ative force for club and coun­try.

What to look for

In their fi­nal ma­jor tour­na­ment ahead of host­ing the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar will look to bet­ter their best-ever AFC Asian Cup per­for­mance, reach­ing the quar­ter-fi­nals in 2000 and 2011. Stand­ing in their way will be three-time win­ners Saudi Ara­bia as well as DPR Ko­rea and Le­banon.

For Afif, this will be his first in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment at the se­nior level, and with his loan deal from Vil­lar­real to Al Sadd run­ning out in June, he will look to im­press his par­ent club in the hope of book­ing a place in the Yel­low Sub­marines’ squad for the 2019-2020 La Liga sea­son.

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